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Red Sox bats come up aces again

Offense pounds Garland as team wins 6th straight

Statistically speaking, there figures to be no more difficult a stretch for the Red Sox' lineup this season than the last three evenings, as Boston faced, in order, Texas's Kenny Rogers and Chicago's Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland, who have combined for 40 wins.

Before coming to Fenway Park this week, the three All-Stars had compiled the following totals: Rogers (11-4, 2.77 ERA), Buehrle (13-4, 2.79), Garland (16-5, 3.29). And yet, in three games in the Fens, they combined for this line: 0-3, 17 1/3 innings, 28 hits, 16 runs (all earned), 5 walks, 11 strikeouts, and an 8.31 ERA.

''I love the way we work pitchers," said a proud Terry Francona, whose club, after a 7-4 win last night over the White Sox, has plated 62 runs in its last six games, all wins, and is guaranteed of winning the season series against Chicago (Boston is 4-2 with the finale today). ''We do a very good job of that."

Garland became the latest to learn the validity of that statement. He was touched for five runs on nine hits in just 5 1/3 innings. He threw 50 pitches after two innings, 75 after three, and 94 after four. With no outs in the third inning, Garland had thrown 68 pitches in falling behind, 3-0.

''He had to work a lot early," said Tony Graffanino, who went 3 for 4 with two doubles, two runs scored, and an RBI, lifting his average since joining the Red Sox to .358 (24 for 67) in 16 games. ''It was hot and humid. It took a toll on him."

Garland was gone in the sixth inning, the Sox ahead, 5-0, on Edgar Renteria's RBI single on Garland's 108th and final pitch and comfortably headed to their 14th win in 16 games and 13th consecutive home win. The Sox had scored once in the second and three times in the third to build that lead.

Roberto Petagine, batting fifth behind Manny Ramirez, knocked in two runs of a 4-0 lead. His solo homer in the second (his first major league blast since 1998), coupled with his third-inning RBI single up the middle, gave the first baseman eight RBIs in his last four games.

''He's got probably 18 at-bats, and he's got a bunch of RBIs," Francona remarked. ''His at-bats have counted. You get a new guy, they don't just play, he winds up hitting in the middle of our order and does some damage."

Tim Wakefield, in his only previous appearance this season against the White Sox (July 22 at Chicago), was hit as hard as he has been in any of his 24 starts. He allowed seven runs that night on nine hits -- including two three-run home runs in the sixth inning -- and lasted just 5 2/3 innings.

Last night he was far more effective. He'd scattered four hits through six scoreless innings before a 40-minute rain delay halted the game in the bottom of the sixth.

Wakefield, who'd thrown just 70 pitches in six innings, returned but threw 24 pitches in the seventh and didn't finish the inning. He lost his shutout on consecutive home runs by Paul Konerko (his 30th of the year and 200th of his career) and Aaron Rowand, which cut the Sox' lead to 5-2.

Rowand, by the way, is 10 for 14 (.714) with four homers and eight RBIs in his career against Wakefield.

The Sox upped their lead to 7-2 in the seventh, when Bill Mueller doubled and scored on a Graffanino double, and Graffanino scored on a Gabe Kapler single.

Chicago plated an unearned run in the seventh -- Mike Remlinger walked Carl Everett, then surrendered a double to left to Konerko that Ramirez misplayed, his error allowing Everett to score. Remlinger, in two appearances -- both in games the Sox led, 7-2 -- has faced six batters and retired none.

Curt Schilling relieved Remlinger and fanned Rowand with a 94-mile-per-hour fastball to end the eighth. But Schilling attempted to throw one by Jermaine Dye to begin the ninth, and Dye lost the ball on Lansdowne Street.

''The ball I ended the eighth with was not on the plate, it was running back at [Rowand]," Schilling said. ''The ball on the home run was over the plate."

Dye's was the 24th homer hit by these two teams in six games against each other this season. Of the 62 runs scored in those half-dozen games, 36 have come via long balls (11 by the Red Sox, 13 off Chicago bats).

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